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Understanding About Zakaat

Zakáh is one of the five fundamental institutions of Islam. It is second only to prayer as an essential article of the faith. Zakáh forms an integral, compulsory and inseparable part of the Islamic way of life. The non-observance or neglect of Zakáh is tantamount to a negation of the faith itself. The early Meccan revelations emphasized the moral aspect of Zakáh and persuaded Muslims to offer it voluntarily. It was not until the second year of Hijrah that Zakáh was made obligatory on all Muslims.

An example of one of these revelation is:
"Zakáh is for the poor and the needy and those employed to collect the funds, and for those whose hearts are inclined towards the faith, and to free the captive, and for those in debt, and in the cause of Allah, and for the traveller, a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise." (Q9:60) Apart from Zakáh, which is an obligatory charity, Islam also encourages voluntary giving known as Sadaqah. This voluntary alms giving, is not just mere handouts to the poor for self-gratification or public show. On the contrary, it serves to confirm our faith in a Generous God that smiles upon the generous spirit. Sadaqah knows no distinction of status, race or even creed. It begins with one's family, and then extends to the poor, the traveller and even the enemy. Allah Almighty declares:" They feed (others) for the love of Him: destitute, orphan and captive." (Q76:8)

" For the love of Him" means that Sadaqah must be given for the pleasure of Allah alone and for no other reason. It may be given in secret, or openly as an example for others to emulate. "If you give alms in public, for others to see, it is well: but if you conceal your alms, and give them to the poor, it shall be better for you." (Q2:271) Sadaqah is thus a tangible prayer of thanksgiving to Allah for His bounty. Faith and Charity "It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward the east and the west. True righteousness is this: to have faith in Allah and the Last Day, the angels, the scriptures, and the Prophets; to give of one's wealth, though it may be cherished, to the next of kin and the orphans, the destitute and the wayfarer, to the needy and for the redemption of slaves; to observe regular worship and to give the obligatory alms. Those who fulfil their covenant having bound themselves by it and those who are patient in misfortune and adversity and in times of strife: these are true in their faith; these are the God-fearing." (Q2:177) " Both worship and responsibility are the hallmarks of a true Muslim. Allah ascribed to man the role of His vicegerent on earth. The execution of this responsibility becomes in itself an act of worship. Muslims, individually and collectively, are bound 'to enjoin acts of righteousness and goodness, and to forbid acts of wickedness and depravity.' Enjoining good is not simply preaching to others and avoiding evil. It is actively sharing your own material, spiritual and intellectual wealth with others, be it little or much. To give and to share with others are of the greatest expressions of righteousness. That is Zakah means purification, wholesomeness or health. It also means, in a figurative sense, the contribution that every Muslim of means, man and woman, must make for poverty eradication and social upliftment, and to subsidize establishments and works of public welfare for the benefit and progress of civil society. " "Zakâh is both discipline and freedom. As a discipline, Zakáh has been made a farîdah (an obligatory act of worship) which every Muslim, man and woman, rich and poor must fulfil. Zakáh engenders freedom because sharing and giving liberates man from greed, selfishness and pride. "And believers, men and women, are protectors of one another, they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish regular prayer and they PAY THE ZAKÁH, and they obey Allah and His Messenger. On them Allah has bestowed mercy. Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (Q9: 71)

" Islam is the faith of Divine Oneness (tawhîd). Simply expressed, tawhîd is the conviction and witnessing that there is no god but God. This statement, brief to the utmost limits of brevity, carries the greatest and richest meanings in the whole of Islam. Sometimes, a whole culture, a whole civilization, or a whole history lies compressed in one sentence. This certainly is the case of the kalimah (pronouncement) or shahâdah (witnessing) of Islam. Zakâh, an integral part of tawhîd and purifier of body and spirit, penetrates every facet of the life of the Muslim and his community. Prayers, fasting, the pilgrimage and striving in Allah's cause (jihâd) are also acts of Zakâh, for these also purify the hearts and minds of true believers. "

The Stand Of The Caliph Abu Abkr (RA)

The early history of Islam offers a practical example of the stand taken by Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (RA), successor to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), when certain tribes refused to pay Zakâh. Faced with what Abu Bakr (RA) saw as a crisis, he sent Khalid Ibn al-Walid at the head of an army to force the recalcitrant tribes to abide by the payment of Zakâh. In reply to Khalid's exhortation to fulfil his obligation, Mâlik Ibn Nuwaira said: ”I will keep the prayer but not give the Zakâh.” Whereupon Khalid retorted: “Do you not know that the prayer and the Zakâh are complementary, and that the one is not accepted without the other?”

In order to overcome their unyielding attitude and compel them to carry out the terms of their Islamic covenant, Abu Bakr (RA) did not hesitate to fight against the dissident tribes and subdue them by force of arms.

This was the first and last time in the history of man that an army was commissioned to compel the rich to fulfil their financial obligations to the needy members of society.


The love of wealth is a natural human trait. Wealth and sons are, according to the Qur’an a “a vain adornment of the life of this world.” (Q18:46). It is for this reason that Allah challenges the people of faith to strive in His way with both their wealth and their lives.

The payment of Zakâh creates a healthy impact on the giver, the recipient, and the society. It purifies the assets of the giver, restrains his lust for material goods and creates in him the virtue of sharing his wealth with others. It uplifts him from a life of material pursuits to a life endowed with a moral purpose.

The payer pays Zakâh as an act of worship while the destitute receives it as a right, without any obligation towards the payer. Zakâh, creates love and goodwill between the rich and the poor; it minimizes social tension and bridges the gap between the 'haves' and 'have nots'. It provides social and economic security to the Muslim community and brings its members closer together.


Ibn Umar (RA) reported the Prophet (SAW) as saying:
Islam is built on five Pillars: Testifying that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of Allah, establishing prayer, giving Zakâh, performing pilgrimage and fasting during Ramadaan. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Zakâh is mentioned thirty-two times in the Qur’an, of which twenty-eight is associated with prayer (salah), forever joining our communion with Allah to our responsibilities towards our fellow man. In several verses, observing the payment of Zakâh is a pre-condition for entering the fellowship of Islam. Allah Almighty proclaim

“But if they repent, establish regular prayer and give Zakâh, they are your brethren in faith.” (Q9: 11)

The non-payment of Zakâh excludes defaulters from this brotherhood and fellowship of faith. The Prophet (SAW) instituted the following penalty for evaders of Zakâh, and insisted that neither he, Muhammad (SAW), nor his family must benefit from it:

The non-payment of Zakâh excludes defaulters from this brotherhood and fellowship of faith. The Prophet (SAW) instituted the following penalty for evaders of Zakâh, and insisted that neither he, Muhammad (SAW), nor his family must benefit from it:

One who gives it seeking its reward, he will be rewarded. But one who refuses to pay it, we will take it by force and we will take with it half of his properties, as a command of God's commands, none of it may be given to Muhammad and his family. (Ahmad, Nasa'i, Abu Dawud and Bayhaqi)

The Prophet (SAW) consistently enumerated the reward Allah (SWT) has reserved for the Zakâh payer: Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated from the Prophet (SAW): Guarantee me six things and I assure you of (entering) paradise. I said: What are they, O Messenger of Allah? He said: Prayer, Zakâh, honesty, chastity, the stomach and the tongue. (Tabarani)

Jâbir (RA) narrated: A man asked: O Messenger of Allah, what if someone pays Zakâh on his property? The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: One who pays Zakâh on his property has had evil to go away from him. (Tabarani and Hakim)


As will be readily appreciated from the method of payment, Zakâh is not an income tax. In fact, Zakâh is a government tax in the modern sense of the term. It is a Divinely ordained financial responsibility that must be satisfied exclusively from the surplus wealth of the Zakâh payer. By surplus wealth is meant that which is over and above the lawful necessities of an individual and his/her dependants. This fact is clearly stated in the Qur'anic verse:

“And they ask thee what they should spend for others. Say: THAT WHICH IS SUPERFLUOUS. Thus, Allah makes plain to you His Revelations that perchance you may reflect upon the world and the hereafter.” (Q2:219)


Riba refers to all or any fixed increase on a capital amount to the owner without any partnership or joint venture agreement between the parties, such as the automatic accrual of bank interest (riba)

The superficial attractiveness of easy gain through riba, has been a major temptation for men of greed throughout history. It has proven to be one of the most pernicious factors in destroying the true science of economy and the economic stability of individuals and nations.

The institution of Zakâh, by making fast the bond of human sympathy, naturally creates in the heart of every Muslim a sense of solidarity with and a genuine compassion for, all his fellow Muslims. In the words of the Qur'an:

“That which you lay out for increase through property of (other) people will have NO INCREASE by Allah. But that which you lay out as ZAKÂH (charity) seeking the Countenance of Allah (WILL INCREASE): it is these who will get A RECOMPENSE MULTIPLIED.” (Q30: 39)

The principle is that any profit, which we should seek, should be through our own exertions and at our own expense, not through exploiting other people or at their expense, however much we may wrap up the process in the specious phraseology of high finance or free enterprise.


A nisâb is the minimum amount of taxable wealth that is Zakâtable after possession of the said amount for a full lunar year.


The currency issued by governments in the shape of coins of any metal or paper notes is subject to Zakâh on account of its purchasing power.

It actually represents gold or silver. It is the consensus of opinion that the nisâb for gold is 87,48 grams and silver is 612,36 grams or its equivalent value in currency. If the amount of currency possessed by a person equals the value of the nisâb for silver or gold, he will have to pay Zakâh on it.


If a Muslim owns wealth (whether on hand or in banks) of value equivalent to nisâb or more, he is required to pay a minimum of 2,5% of it as Zakâh. Other forms of wealth on which Zakâh is levied are agricultural produce and animals. Details of other forms of wealth and their nisâb can be obtained from any office of the South African National Zakâh Fund.


Zakâh is to be paid at the end of every twelve lunar month on one's surplus assets, irrespective of whether the assets are the same old ones or have been recently acquired. The purification on wealth is a continuous process and the needs of the poor are perennial.


One all-important rule in the discharge of one's Zakâh is punctuality in effecting its payment. Unwarranted postponement of the payment of Zakâh falls under the same category as unlawful postponement of the sacred months:

“Postponement is only an excess of disbelief whereby those who disbelieve are misled...” (Q9:37)

Once the payment of Zakâh is due, it constitutes, a sacred debt of the individual to the Muslim nation, a debt that must be paid.


Zakâh, according to Imam Shafi'i must likewise be paid from the taxable wealth of Muslim minors and orphans, and Muslims of unsound mind. The responsibility for the payment of Zakâh due from wealth belonging to minors and those of unsound mind rest with the person legally entrusted with the care and administration thereof.

For Imam Shafi'i Zakâh is a tax on the wealth of the person and not a tax on the person.

The Hanafi School of law holds that no Zakâh other than Zakâtul-Fitr is incumbent on minors, orphans or insane persons as in either case the condition of voluntary compliance cannot be fulfilled due to lack of understanding. Imam Abu Hanifah holds that Zakâh is an obligation on the conscience of the individual, and therefore it is a condition that the individual must be able himself to discharge this responsibility.


Trade capital, i.e. both the reserve and working capital (cash, money and articles of trade) belonging to individuals or companies is also subject to the payment of Zakâh whenever its value is equal to or above the minimum taxable limit established above.


Wealth privately owned (by individuals or companies, or endowed establishments), THAT HAS THE CHARACTER OF BUSINESS CONCERNS, such as private hospitals/clinics, hotels, educational institutions, companies of every description, farms, factories, etc. are subject to the payment of Zakâh.


All establishments privately owned or endowed, that are either totally devoted to charitable purpose (i.e. free hospitals, orphanages, homes for the poor, the disabled, or the aged, etc.) or to the service of humanity (i.e. scientific research institutes, etc.) are exempted from the obligation of paying Zakâh, as by their very nature they fulfil the purpose to which the proceeds if Zakâh may be dedicated.


The Hanafi School of law deems the taxability of silver and gold as absolute, and so maintains these two precious metals, in whatever shape they may be cast, lose nothing of their liability for Zakâh. They hold that jewellery and ornaments made of gold and/or silver are under all circumstances subject to Zakâh

Imam Shafi'i takes the view that Zakâh should not be imposed on women's ornaments and jewellery made of gold or silver, these being lawful articles of daily use for women. Likewise, both Imam Malik and Imam Ghazali favour the opinion that no Zakâh should be imposed on gold and silver ornaments and jewellery kept for personal use.


The principles of Zakâh naturally imply that unproductive wealth i.e. whatever does not constitute surplus wealth of lasting value, constitutes, by its very nature, Zakâh-free wealth.

The Shari'ah excludes belongings falling under personal and household use. These exemptions include clothes, furniture, utensils, (excluding gold and silver utensils), household and kitchen appliances, residence, transportation vehicle, etc.


With the exception of agricultural produce, honey, raw silk and the produce of silver and gold mines, the law of Zakâh allows the payment of Zakâh ahead of time. The following Hadith substantiates this ruling:

It is related on the authority of 'Ali (RA) that Abbaas (RA) asked the Messenger of Allah (SAW) for permission to effect the payment of his Zakâh dues before the completion of the year's term of possession. So he (i.e. the Prophet (SAW) allowed him to do so). (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi)

As laid down by the Shafi'i school of law, the extreme limit for the advance payment of dues is one year, and for the Hanafi school of law two years


If at the time of death any Zakâh remains unpaid, it must in accordance with Islamic law, be paid out of the wealth of the deceased Muslim, man or woman, along with any other debts, BEFORE the distribution of the estate of the deceased!


Before we mention the recipients of Zakâh, it is important to note that Zakâh is the DIVINE RIGHT of recipients of Zakâh. The Zakâh payer, by paying it to the recipient, does not oblige the recipient, nor is the acceptance of Zakâh, by any means, a matter of shame, insult or humiliation. Allah (SWT) calls Zakâh in the Qur'an, “A Recognized Right” (Q70: 24-25) of the needy, and the one who has little access to sustenance.


In principle, the collection and distribution of Zakâh is a task carried out by an autonomous agency in every Muslim community. Some Muslim countries and some minority communities are attempting to revive this institution with a view to establishing a practical administrative programme to achieve the required aim. In South Africa, the South African National Zakâh Fund is trying in its humble way to discharge this responsibility

Zakâh may be given to any one, or all of the eight categories of recipients mentioned in Surah Taubah:

“Zakâh is only for the poor and the needy and those who administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer; (thus it is) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom.” (Q 9:60)